Monday, June 18, 2012

KoJa Kitchen - Korean BBQ Beef (Bulgogi) KoJa Sandwich

Scan the crowd at any food truck meet up, and you'll often find one truck with lines like no other. With a flat screen panel on the side of the truck that rotates through pictures of the menu items, the KoJa Kitchen truck has already amassed quite a cult-like following even though it only launched in late 2011. Though their menu is limited to only a few items, what they have is delicious, innovative and unique. And since I have eaten at KoJa multiple times, getting exactly the same thing each time, they are consistent in both their taste and preparation.

KoJa - which stands for Korean-Japanese, refers to both the ethnic background of its founders, as well as the truck's cuisine theme. Their speciality is the KoJa Sandwich, offered with a choice of Korean BBQ beef, Korean BBQ chicken, or Teriyaki Vegetarian patty and includes sautéed onions, Japanese seasoned romaine lettuce and Koja's signature sauce. You can also add a slice of fresh pineapple or some kimchi. Besides the addictive, I-can't-stop-eating-this! quality, what makes this sandwich so special? KoJa serves up their filling between two toasted rice cake patties, taking their creation to a whole new level.

Since I don't usually eat beef at home (you can blame Brian, who does most of the cooking, for this), it's usually the meat that I gravitate to when I see it on the menu. For my first foray into Koja-ness, I of course chose the beef. To up my iron intake even more, I paired it with the Kamikaze fries, for a combo that KoJa affectionaly calls the Kamikaze Combo.

The KoJa sandwich is best eaten piping hot, when the rice patties are still crispy and chewy. They are fairly thick and dense to cradle the juicy fillings, but crispy and toasted on the outside. It's like scraping the crispy, pressed rice off of the bottom of a pot of dolsot bibimbap (the best part!) and forming into a patty. Genius! I have always loved my meat over rice, and KoJa has transformed the "traditional" rice bowl and turned it into a handheld treat. As tasty as they are, the patties still play second fiddle to the tender, flavorful meat. The bulgogi beef is thinly sliced, slightly sweet and smoky, and just melts in your mouth. The chicken has similar stylings, and both have a slightly fiery kick to them. It's already pretty flavorful and spicy, but for extra spice (and an extra 50 cents) you can also add kimchi to any sandwich, kicking it up a notch.

For those wanting a light meal or a snack, the KoJa Sandwich can be purchased on its own, for a relative bargain at only $5.50. For a whole meal, or if you just can't get enough KoJa (like me!), order it as part of the combo with Kamikaze Fries, which shouldn't be missed! The fries are seasoned, criss-cut waffle fries, heaped with bits of the BBQ beef and topped with green onions, sriracha, hints of kimchi and Koja's spicy special sauce. They are not for the faint of stomach as they are pretty spicy, but they are also amazingly decadent. If spice isn't you thing, Koja will accomodate and serve up the kimchi on the side. Because of the portion size and the amount of meat, the Kamikaze fries are more of a main dish than a side, but they certainly pair well with the KoJa Sandwich.

As much as I love to try new things, there are days that I just crave KoJa, and nothing else satisfies. There is just something about the sweet beef and the texture of the crispy rice that just makes it the perfect combination. From the first bite to the last forkful, long after the sandwich falls apart in its paper holder, it's just awesome.

Rating: 4.5/5 (ratings guide)

KoJa Kitchen (@kojakitchen) $5.50 for the sandwich, or $12.50 for a Combo with Kamikaze Fries and a drink

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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